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Subject: Roelovich's view on Tigris & Eurphrates: the game of opportunities rss

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Roel V
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It is a sad fate that awaits many game boxes stored in an ever expanding boardgame collection: when the limits of the closet are reached, older boxes of games which are outshined by their young descendants who have slightly improved upon some clever mechanics of their predecessors and come with a shiny new fashionable theme are at risk of getting eliminated out of the collection. It's a tough world out there in your gaming closet, but some oldies always endure and rightfully keep claiming a loving place on the top shelf, those boxes are... the classics!

Tigris & Euphrates certainly is an oldie, having been released in 1997 - but is it a classic? Let's find out!

The good
First of all, let me start off by arguing that - in my opinion - most euro games which were released in the previous millennium (how epic does that sound?) were based on some clever but simple mechanisms which were implemented in a very elegant way, not needing huge rulebooks nor rules exeptions in order to make the gameplay work. The result was a vast array of very accessible boardgames which one could explain to new fellow players in 15-30 minutes and everyone with a minimal enthousiasm for the game could understand the game and get engrossed in the experience. This is a quality that also applies to Tigris & Euphrates, as players simply play in a fixed player order and get to spend 2 actions selecting from 4 possibilities each turn. Explain the way different conflicts play out and basically, you're set.

Does that mean this game boils down to a dull and uninteresting experience with few decisions that call for clever thinking? Not at all! Even with the very few possibilities for actions given to players, the way those actions are used give players a wealth of choice. As the matter of fact, Tigris & Eurphrates constantly challenges players to discover, create and utilize opportunities in a way very few other (even much more modern) titles can! Players find themselves constantly looking for clever ways to break into a valuable kingdom or provoke a conflict with another kingdom and resolve that conflict in such a way clever way that potential mass-scoring of points occurs. Such conflicts often redraw the entire map, making Tigris & Euphrates still has one of the most dynamic boards to play your game. Also take into account that different players can to a certain level coexist within the same kingdom, giving way to (quite unstable) alliances in which players activly seek to point out opportunities for other players (which of course also benifits them ). Despite its age, I think it is fair to say that Tigris & Euphrates remains one of the most 'dynamic' games out there, certainly if you take the very limited rule set and limited play time (a 4-player game takes about 60-90 minutes) into account.

The bad
So, why would anyone be playing more modern , 'needlessly' complex and less elegant boardgames - taking a big investment in in time and money in order to buy, teach and play them? Well, just like some other oldies, Tigris and Euphrates is not without its flaws.

The flaw in this game, is the tile-drawing mechanism by which, at the end of a players turn, all players get to refill their collection of tiles to 6 tiles. Not getting certain color of tiles (especially red ones!) may greatly hurt your game and destroy your chances of creating those precious opportunities necessary to claim victory and enjoy a tactical game. There is a possibility to spend an action in order to swap some tiles, but in a 4-player game you don't have that many actions to spend, and there is no guarantee your precious action spent on swapping tiles will bestow you with better tiles as you always draw tiles blindly.

I also believe the game board might be a little bit too large. Often, at the time real interesting conflicts arise when two big kingdoms are drawing near to each other, the tile bag is starting to run low or many treasures have allready been snatched away, meaning the game is already nearing its end. Starting players also tend to start a game with a 'wait-and-see'-attitude, building themselves a small kingdom somewhere quite in a corner of the gameboard, and it might have been better if the board was designed in such a way in order to stimulate early conflict - although this is a minor complaint as I generally like the dynamic of the gameboard as mentioned before, and every game has its own set of interesting conflicts. Still, to me the game might take a few more turns in order to enjoy the possibilities created by a board full of tiles, or the board should have been smaller in order to force players more quickly into terms of scoring points in a clever way by provoking conflict.

The verdict
The look
Of course the age of the game shows in its components, but they are all very functional

The feel
This game has a brilliant mechanism, resulting in a very dynamic tactical play with players creating, discovering and exploiting opportunities everywhere on the board. Despite its age, this mechanic still delivers today as in my opinion no modern game has made a successful improvement on the tile placement and conflict resolvement mechanic of Tigris and Euphrates. The game plays out smoothly with little efford to teach the game and a very reasonable gaming time with no downtime. However, the game suffers from some luck-dependance with tile draws, especially when a player fails to draw red tiles (which should only occur in rare cases).

Final score
Is Tigris & Euphrates a classic? Most certainly, it is!
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Martin G
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Excellent review of my favourite game, thanks!

I feel that your two criticisms may be related. In my games, there's almost always conflict very early in the game. That's because any time I get a hand that's strong (3+ tiles) in one colour, I want to find a way to dump them into winning a war. It's more efficient to gain multiple points in a single conflict than one at a time by laying tiles, not to mention that it hurts the loser too!

In turn, that means that I play more tiles and therefore draw more, so I'm less likely to get screwed by randomness.
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Roel V
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qwertymartin wrote:
(...)
That's because any time I get a hand that's strong (3+ tiles) in one colour, I want to find a way to dump them into winning a war. It's more efficient to gain multiple points in a single conflict than one at a time by laying tiles, not to mention that it hurts the loser too!

In turn, that means that I play more tiles and therefore draw more, so I'm less likely to get screwed by randomness.


Interesting point of view, and certainly true. I usually find myself trying to build a strong presence with a couple of leaders surrounded by temples in a big kingdom, which I use to provoke conflict with others in order to score points and manipulate the map. However, this can be risky: this strategy indeed requires certain color tiles to pop up and losing a top notch position in a big kingdom which can't easily be divided by desaster-tiles can be quite painful.

Maybe provoking conflict in between smaller kingdoms and generating a greater turn-over with tiles might indeed be a way to limit your risk and reduce random tile draw effects. Thanks for the hint, I'll sure give it a try next time!
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Luke
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Quote:
The verdict
The look
Of course the age of the game shows in its components, but they are all very functional


The Monuments are probably my favourite game components ever. The leader pucks are lovely too. I'd agree they look antiquated but that's kind of the point.

Nice review - I'd definitely consider this game a classic.
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David B
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List of games designed since Tigris and Euphrates that are better than Tigris and Euphrates:

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David Janik-Jones
Canada
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Next up for review? You need to tackle El Grande.
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Roel V
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DaveyJJ wrote:
Next up for review? You need to tackle El Grande.


El Grande is, without any doubt, also a classic and together with Tigris & Euphrates probably the best the nineties had to offer to boardgaming...

Maybe I'll dedicate a review to that other oldie in the future - I admit reviewing popular oldies is not as functional, but still they deserve some love
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Jonathan C
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pfctsqr wrote:
List of games designed since Tigris and Euphrates that are better than Tigris and Euphrates:



List of games designed since Tigries & Euphrates that are like Tigris and Euphrates:

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